Air Canada targets Yemeni passengers

Posted by admin on Nov 5th, 2010

Friday, November 5, 2010, CBC News

Air Canada has ordered its staff to subject anyone connected to Yemen to undergo extra security checks after the discovery last week of two packages containing explosives that originated from the country. A memo, circulated at several major Canadian airports, directs Air Canada staff to take aside any passenger who was born or is a resident in Yemen, is travelling to or transiting through Yemen, or has started a trip in the country. The passenger, who will already have gone through normal security, will be taken to a so-called sterile area for a second and more thorough search.

The memo also says that the flight should not be delayed to allow a customer to be screened, but instead, the customer should be rebooked on the next available flight.

A spokesman for Air Canada told CBC News he couldn’t comment on the policy, because it’s a security matter.

It is not known if the tougher rules are an initiative the airline took on its own or if it was ordered to do so by Transport Canada.

Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of CAIR-CAN, Canada’s largest Muslim lobby, said this is blatant racial profiling.

“Profiling assumes there are innate characteristics that are a predictor of criminality, and this is a slippery slope into racism,” Gardee said.

Last week, authorities intercepted Chicago-bound packages off cargo planes in Dubai and England. Inside, they found the bombs wired to cellphones and hidden in the toner cartridges of computer printers. On Friday, a Yemen-based al-Qaeda group claimed responsibility for the cargo mail bomb plot.

British terrorism expert Sajan Gohel said even in extraordinary circumstances, racial profiling is not justified, but he said there is no doubt that al-Qaeda is increasingly using Yemen as its prime base to mount attacks against the West.

But Canadian security expert Arne Kislenko said it’s not racist to target air travellers to and from a country that al-Qaeda members are using as a base to attack the West.

Kislenko, who used to work as an immigration officer at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, said if Air Canada is giving Yemeni nationals extra attention, it’s likely because intelligence agencies are aware of a specific threat.

“There’s probably intelligence communities — American, Canadian and others — who have information about specific threats,” Kislenko said. “And they more than likely involve Yemeni nationals travelling to the U.S. or elsewhere on Western airlines.

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